The Mile of Music schedule is out. Let us help you navigate it.
With 221 acts on the way and 60 venues to explore, Mile of Music can leave even the most dedicated music fans struggling to figure out where to start.
Scott Peeples of Appleton has more mileage than most on his festival odometer, having taken in 40 full shows and 17 partial shows at last year’s event alone. Scott does his homework in advance of the festival to get the most from his Mile of Music experience. He shares his research and top picks with friends.
Scott is graciously allowing Valley Review to share his recommendations heading into a big Mile 7. Click the Valley Review’s music tab to get earlier editions. Following this piece, Scott will have just one more batch of suggestions before the countdown to festival time begins.
And here’s Scott …
Sleep Study; Genre: Psychedelic Pop
Trying to untangle the influences in the Sleep Study’s groove is a confounding proposition. 1970s’ pop rock (think the The Shoes and Electric Light Orchestra) bump up against Beatle/Byrd-esque vocals, with a touch of the Verve, Tame Impala and “I’ll Be There for You.” All that’s to say, this eight-year old Minneapolis quartet (Ryan Plewacki, Justin Hartke, Michael Gunvalson and Kai Brewster) has a really cool band here. Listen to their song, “Flower Girl.”
Andrew Leahey and the Homestead; Genre: Heartland Americana
Mile of Music veteran Andrew Leahey channels Tom Petty with less snarl and more velvet. His vocals puncture perfectly through the Homestead’s raucous guitar bursts in tunes that reflect a storied journey from choral music to high praise in Rolling Stone Magazine. “Skyline In Central Time” solidified Leahey’s emergence as a solid rocker. His latest, “Airwaves,” features Leahey’s strongest songwriting yet, taking the Homestead a step closer to running down a dream of musical evermore.
Devon Gilfillian; Genre: Rhythm and Soul
Musically speaking, Nashville-based artist Devon Gilfillian has verve: Al Green funk/soul on “Here and Now,” low-key dance grooves on “High” and slick guitar licks on “Troublemaker.” At the center of it all is Gilfillian’s definitive voice that draws from masters like Otis Redding and Ray Charles but stands wholly on its own.
Lula Wiles; Genre: Traditional American Folk
An aggravated beauty who rebuffs a marriage proposal is unlikely inspiration for a band name. Then again, Lula Wiles (a twist of The Carter Family song “Lulu Walls”) isn’t your typical Boston trio. Influenced by the seminal traditional folk band, Ellie Buckland, Isa Burke and Mali Osomsawin spread multi-layered vocals over a guitar/fiddle sweet souffle that feeds the body and the spirit. Songs like “Hometown” are sardonic but, swept up in the band’s unique symmetry, never become acerbic. On “Good American Values,” Osomsawin maligns the American myth born from Native American oppression. Even lighter songs, like “Nashville Man,” have a message worth deciphering. Their early 2019 release, “What Will We Do?” is an inspired musical provocation to society, to their listeners and to themselves. (Photo below.)
Phillip-Michael Scales; Genre: Rock ‘n Roll Soul
Chicago singer, guitarist, songwriter and frenetic storyteller Phillip-Michael Scales mixes pop, blues, soul and folk rock to create his own space in the music scene. Scales returns for a fourth Mile appearance on the strength of great songs — “Sinner-Songwriter is his breakout EP — and charming audience interaction. At last year’s mile, standing center stage near the beginning of his show, Scales overheard someone mutter, “Who is this?” Without missing a bit, he stated, “I’m Phillip Michael Scales,” then launched into the next song. A short time later, he related a poignant conversation with a lukewarm fan earlier in the night. A few carefully chosen words transformed a casual racist comment into real human connection. In the unexpectedly sublime “Bricks,” Scales sings, “I’m just a man with too much to say.” Nope.
Cory Chisel/Adriel Denae; Genre : Americana
Cory Chisel and Adriel Denae, a musical and real life couple, are mightily skilled as a duo but they’re equally compelling as solo artists. Each has only one (solo) show at Mile 7; those who haven’t seen them perform should push that rock off and mark your calendars. Seven years ago, Chisel joined Dave Willems in creating the Mile of Music and, subsequently, shaping Appleton into a nationally recognized love haven for Roots/Americana artists. Today, both Chisel and Denae are as known for the beautiful music they made together (“Song Bird,” “Tennessee,” “This is How It Goes/I’ve Been Accused”) as for nurturing recording artists, both local and national. Chisel’s voice is built for the Americana genre: soft enough to bring you to tears but foot stomping growley when it’s time to bring the house down on “These Four Walls.” Moreover, his pensive song lyrics over the past 14 years are as profound as they are relatable. While Denae’s delicate voice melds perfectly with Chisel’s, she is an adept song writer in her own right and packs as much soul and sorrow in her voice as Emmylou Harris. On “Lady Moses,” Denae provides a subtle tribute to every woman who’s ever dared to carve out her own path. On “Well Beyond Your Years,” Chisel and Denae sing the saddest glass-half-full song you’ll ever hear. We’d all do well to heed their advice.